The competition is heavy at a trade show, so it's easy to get lost in the crowd.
If you want to get noticed, you'll have to do a little more than simply show up and set up shop. Gone are the days when "booth babes" were all the rage. Companies are now required to put in the time and energy into figuring out how to organically attract more visitors to their booths.
Oh the humanity!
To save you the time and energy, we've compiled a list of 7 tactics to help you get more trade show foot traffic to your booth.
1. Pre-Show Buzz
If you want the right people to visit your booth, you need to tell them where and when you'll be there.
A month or so before the show, send out invitations to key contacts inviting them to visit your booth for a meeting or product unveiling.
Trade show invitation featuring samples for new handwoven carpet samples.
Be sure to announce your presence at the trade show by letting your followers on social media know when and where to stop by.
Remember, you need to give them a reason to visit your booth, so send out teaser messages/posts that will entice them, such as an exclusive freebie for the first 100 visitors or entry into a raffle to win a grand prize.
Learn more clever tips about creating pre-show marketing buzz in our article, The Ultimate List of Exhibit and Trade Show Marketing Tactics.
2. Have an Eye-Catching Booth
There's nothing worse than a company spending the time, energy and resources to exhibit at a trade show, only to have a sorry-excuse-for-a-booth that is embarrassing at best.
People at trade shows are being overwhelmed with visual stimulus. Making your booth design big and bold will get attendees’ attention. As soon as you get their attention, that’s when a salesperson should step in and begin a conversion.
Tru-Fit LINKS is a light-weight, scalable and modular display.
If you want leads, then you need to turn heads. Learn the tricks of the trade of designing a knock-out trade show booth in our post, Head-Turning Trade Show Booth Design and Layout Ideas. We aren't saying you need to have a behemoth of a booth, but please do some research on the breadth of the trade show and design a booth that is eye-catching and within your budget.
3. Location, Location, Location
The exhibition hall will likely get a lot of foot traffic where the concession stands and bathrooms are located, but that's not to say that the most ideal spot for a booth is next to a restroom or a bunch of famished people - or a bunch of famished people who also have to use the restroom.
Granted, these are definitely convenient and high-traffic areas at a trade show, but you may want to choose a booth that is located relatively near, not next to, these high-traffic areas.
Booth map from the Spring Fair Trade Show
Likewise, booths located at the corners of aisles get a lot of passersby thanks to the exhibition floor “cross streets," and the center of the floor (the "bulls eye") tends to amass more traffic than other areas of the exhibition hall.
4. Pick the Right People
What good is having an exceptionally designed booth in a prime location if the people working the booth are duds?
Save yourself the embarrassment and waste of time by recruiting the top talent at your company who are knowledgeable and passionate about your brand.
The last thing you want is a team of lackluster, unenthusiastic employees who are slouched in a chair scrolling through their social media feeds and ignoring trade show attendees.
Just as it's crucial to have a booth design that is open and inviting, you want your booth staff to be inviting and approachable throughout the entire show.
Also, be sure to know the do's and don'ts of trade show attire, because a disheveled-looking staff is just as detrimental as a couldn't-care-less team member.
5. Toy Around...With Discretion
Speaking broadly, there are two strategies to drive booth traffic:
- Get as many people to stop at your booth as possible
- Get the right people to stop at your booth
If you’re aiming for strategy 1, the why not satisfy that inner child in every attendee and toy around with some "big kid" toys at your booth. It's not every day that you see a motorized helicopter or mini drone flying around a trade show - unless, of course, that's applicable to your industry.
Photo by Alex Wong for Getty Images
It also wouldn't hurt to brand some cheaper alternatives, such as foam airplanes, and use those as giveaways to the visitors who are intrigued by "the booth with the airplanes." Chances are, attendees will take these toys back to the office and have a fun visual cue reminding them of your brand.
Check with the show to see if you're allowed to have motorized gadgets flying around the exhibition hall before you prepare for takeoff.
Not only will this save your staff from the dull moments during the show, but attendees will also appreciate the entertainment that breaks them from the monotony of the trade show.
A woman embraces Iron Man at the 2013 International CES
On the other hand, question how much qualified traffic you will be attracting to your booth rather than those solely interested in the fun toy. Especially if you’re low on booth staff, then you should do whatever possible to avoid unqualified conversations.
6. Amazing Giveaway Prizes & Swag
A great way to attract foot traffic and gain lead information is to create a simple, interactive iPad game that requires visitors to enter their information before playing a simple "spin the wheel" or "pick which door" game to win a grand prize (like a branded iPad, for example).
Ray Maker held a contest for trade show attendees to guess how many steps he walked.
If you don’t have the budget for an elaborate giveaway, then simply give visitors a nicely packaged gift bag with swag items, because who doesn't like freebies?
Your giveaways don't have to be over-the-top and expensive, they just have to attract people to your booth so that your team can work their magic on them. Check out our post on the ultimate list of proven swag giveaways for trade shows if you want specific suggestions.
7. Get Social
Nowadays, it seems as though everyone is glued to their phones, and when you're a trade show attendee, your phone is your saving grace.
The tedium of walking aisle after aisle through an exhibition hall can make the best of us go a bit stir crazy after a while, so the relief of scrolling through social media news feeds is definitely a sight for sore eyes.
As an exhibitor, you should definitely be taking advantage of this fact.
Earlier, we discussed creating pre-show buzz to get the word out that your company will be exhibiting at a trade show, the next step is to keep the buzz going while the show is going on.
If you're planning a trade show social media strategy, Twitter and Instagram are among the best social networks to use. They provide an instant, live look into the show for both attendees and those who couldn't make the event. Both networks allow you to post visual content with location and hashtag-based searchability.
Be sure to tag the photos and videos you post online with the trade show's unique hashtag (that should be available on the show's marketing collateral) and use the geo-tag feature to indicate your booth location/number.
Pro Tip: If you really want to watch attendees line up at your booth, see if you can get a permit to serve wine and beer at your booth during "happy hour" in the early evening.
Don't just fill up cups and send people on their way, set up a nice lounge area with some bar tables at your booth so that people stick around and socialize. There's no better ice-breaker than a glass of wine or beer to spark up a conversation.
Show-goers enjoy a reprieve from hours of walking the trade show floor.
It doesn't take much to go the extra mile and really wow visitors at trade shows so make sure you plan this extra step ahead of time in your marketing strategy.
Here’s a summary of 7 tactics to get more foot traffic at your booth:
- Start creating buzz well before the trade show starts
- Have an eye-catching booth
- Pick a smart location on the trade show floor
- Bring passionate and energetic people to run the booth
- Use interactive toys to lure attendees, if appropriate
- Offer amazing and interactive giveaways
- Use social media during the event to inform attendees about your booth
Take the time and effort to really plan out your trade show marketing strategy and your booth design so that you leave a positive lasting impression for attendees and your industry for years to come.